About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Influencing others to enter Web 2.0

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I spend the last weekend with my sister and her family. She is my oldest sister (I have 3 sisters and a brother) and is in her 50's. She was explaining the difficulties she has been having at work. A speech pathologist, she is part of an agency the provides services to disabled pre-schoolers and school aged students including evaluations and therapy in the areas of speech, occupational therapy, special education and tutoring, social work, and physical therapy.

The problem is that over the 15 years that she has been working at this organization, the group has grown from 20 employees to over 200 employees and independent contractors. Being in the field of social services, the workers prefer a flat organization in which each person has some say in their work. At the same time, the administration in this field has become very structured with mandates at the Federal, state, and local (county) levels, sometimes contradicting each other. The problem then becomes how to coordinate the paperwork needed while giving equal input into the process.

My brother-in-law, married to the corporate top down total control of the entire process philosophy of management was advocating having the directors wrest control of the process and "making" the employees follow the rules. However, this is like herding geese (notice I said geese and not cats) in that those that don't want to be herded will turn around and bite. Others will just fly the coupe. So I suggested using a wiki. I gave my sister the web address for PBWiki as it is password protected (there needs to be security), so she could play around with it before presenting it as an option to help the work process.

The Results

Yesterday, my sister called. She was so excited that:
  1. She, a 50 something, brought in technology that no one else had heard of in the organization
  2. She had set up a wiki that could be used by the team and the parent (she went well beyond what I could have imagined) all by herself
  3. The parent she was working with thought she was really cool in being able to communicate using modern ways
  4. Her group could now work together better to provide better service
This is a test group and if it works out, it can be replicated by her organization. I am very excited for her.

This got me to thinking, how can we make others aware of programs and technological solutions to their organizational communication problems? How can we make those decision makers and workers who have some influence aware of the current management practices and the new ways to configure work tasks so they will look for new tools to help them?


Tom Haskins said...

Your sister's experience appears to me like a great example of Web 2.0 in practice. She did not learn about the use of a wiki by taking a class or reading a textbook. She had a problem in her personal world and discovered a solution. She did some experimenting to see how it worked and what difference it made. She learned from her experience an would think she "taught herself" what she now knows. She had no problems with motivation, attention or retention. Her own "context of use" propelled her curiosity, investigation and experimentation.

The emphasis in her learning is not on the tool as a topic of study, but rather on the outcomes produced by using the tool. The new ideas came to here when she was ready in way where she was open to receive them. She got the amount she needed, not a survey course on Web 2.0 tools or even a lab session or workshop on the fine points of using wiki tools. Whenever she wants to refine her use of the wiki, she can do online searches for web pages, other wikis and bloggers that can give her other insights, comments on her approach and ideas for other experiments to try out. All this is a wonderful departure and defiance of factory models, classroom delivery, required content and timing dictated by the course offering.

V Yonkers said...

Tom. That is true. However, my sister has never been a traditional learner. She always struggled in school (including taking Math 10-Geometry, twice). She has very good problem solving and learning skills she was taught by both schooling and my mother.

My other sister, who has always been very successful in school, is still struggling with the idea of wiki and how she can incorporate it in her teaching. She wants to know everything about it before she will put it into practice. She was always a perfectionist and a straight A student.

I hadn't thought about it until I read your comment how those that have been successful in school might approach a problem differently than those that had trouble learning in school.